I packed up at the strange campground of Marula Oase, leaving all these Caravans jammed together. I headed south back on the N1. I had found an inverter repairer at Sandton. It was Saturday, so I didn’t rate my chances that they were there, but I had to try and see if I could get my inverter fixed.
The N1 was pretty busy. It dawns on you after travelling in so much of Africa, that Johannesburg is so enormous and so rich.
I eventually got to the inverter repairer, and with amazing luck a worker was there to do some cleaning, and I left my inverter with them. Then it was a 60km drive from that part of Johannesburg to another part of Johannesburg the campground at Benoni. At about 2:45pm I pulled in to the campground getting back to where I had started. I had four days until I flew out, so time to do some repairs, and get Clancy ready for at least 6 months of storage.
A long and eventful day. I was going out of Palapye by 8:30am. I had 350km and a border crossing to get to the caravan park at Modimolle. I could bail at the Big Fig campground near the border, if the border crossing went bad.
So down the A1 turn off towards Martins Drift. Its a 100km fairly straightforward drive. I get close to the Botswana border post, and the trucks start piling up. I get past the trucks, and the Botswana border post is nearly empty. So ten minutes and I am out. Then its across the single lane bridge that crosses the Limpopo and can be jammed with trucks. However I am in luck and I get straight across, then I hit the truck traffic jam at the RSA border. There seems to be no gate guard, different from last time. I have done this border post I think 4 times, and its always different. I manage to squeeze past the trucks to the car parking area. I go to immigration, and ask a truck driver if we have to show our vax certificates at a different building, but he says they don’t care about the vax certificates anymore. I go to the immigration window, and explain to the immigration guy that I just need a transit visa of 7 days because I am flying out. He gives me a month, (I think) its hard to read.
Then off to the Customs window for a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for Clancy. I can see the book through the window with all the previous TIP’s written in the book, so I know I am at the right place. Eventually a woman comes in and opens the window. I pass over my rego papers and say I want a TIP. She asks where is the vehicle registered, I answer Australia. She says you don’t need one and waves me on. I am totally confused. Is this Customs laziness? or have the rules changed? or are Australian cars unlikely to be imported into RSA or what? So I enter South Africa, without a TIP.
I manage to squeeze myself into the truck queue, which is being held up by the Police inspection point further up. I have been through this inspection point before. I have no idea what the Police and looking for. I open up some flaps they have a cursory look and wave me on. This Police inspection point clags up the whole border post, for I don’t know what benefit.
I must also point out I crossed a whole country, namely Botswana, without once being stopped by the Police. Although there were police doing checks, they just didn’t check me.
So I stopped after the border post to get my MTN sim working and hit the road. I stopped at Mokopane (after getting caught in a 30minute traffic jam out of town) at a PnP to get some more supplies. Then onto the N1. I had 100km to get to Modimolle, on the N1, should be easy.
I went through one toll booth, then the second. The second toll plaza, had lots of traffic, and I was weaving around trying to get into the right queue when someone called out, and eventually I realised I had a flat tyre. So changing a tyre in the middle of a toll plaza with dozens of cars wizzing around. I shifted to a toll lane that was out of use. I got my safety triangles out, and my Hi-viz vest and got to work. It was close to dusk, but in 20 minutes I had it changed and got going. I went through the toll both, and out the other side. I turned on my lights, and the engine started cutting out. If I turned my lights off the engine was fine. I couldn’t understand what was wrong. Then down the road I stop at a service station, I measure battery voltages and try to figure out what is going on, but I can’t figure it out. I leave the servo, head south and then realise in all the confusion I had missed the turnoff to Modimolle, and I was stuck on the N1 heading south with an engine that was cutting in and out. I eventually got off the N1 at the turn-off to Bela Bela. I stopped at another servo, and figured out that my engine was cutting out because the oil pressure switch was momentarily turning off. This was still a voltage problem, but I knew I could disconnect the oil pressure switch, and at least drive with out the cutting out. So I drove into Bela Bela. It was 43km back to Modimolle, so I though I have to find something at Bela Bela. The options on iOverlander are not good. I try WarmBaths, a huge resort in the middle of Bela Bela. They want $A75 for a nights camping, I tell them no. I head up the road 6km to option 2. They want $A65 for a nights camping. I say no, but they so point me to a cheaper one about a km away. I am running out of options. I roll up and they open up reception for me. Its $A38, still enormous, but I don’t argue. I am camped amongst dozens of other caravans. Its all very strange.
Campsite at Moorings farm was good, because it was 2km from the road, and thus very quiet. Everyone left before me, I got to the main road by 9am. It was 350km to Livingstone.
Pretty uneventful drive. I passed a town around lunch time that advertised a Steers, which is a South African burger chain. I thought a chicken burger would make nice lunch. It cost 75 Kw and I handed over 100Kw, but as is typical of Zambia they don’t have enough change. It takes an extra 5 minutes to come up with 25Kw change (just over $A2). The campsite at Moorings charged 140Kw, but they cannot change 150Kw I gave them (less than $A1), so I paid 150Kw. Same with Wildlife Camp at Mfuwe, it cost me an extra 20Kw because they could not give me change. I find it interesting that the supplier of the service is never willing to take the loss.
I stopped at the side of the road for a stretch, then went to start the car, and nothing. I had no ignition at all. I thought this is not good, as the battery failed already? A bit of investigation showed a broken fusible link. I think the link probably stretched under load with all the temporary cabling putting the AGM battery in. I temporarily fixed the link and everything was good.
I got to Livingstone, stopped at the Shoprite, which was the most supplied one ever. I bought some pink lady apples. Then off to Thorn Tree lodge, about 2km from Victoria falls. There are elephant droppings everywhere, the lady who greeted me said they were here a few minutes ago. I can hear the helicopters making flights over the falls. I will go and see the falls tomorrow. I have seen the falls from the Zambezian side, tomorrow from the Zambian side.
I stayed two nights at Wild Camp. The Elephants came and went. I was rotating the tyres when an Elephant approached and a staff member told me to be careful. When I came out of the shower block the second night, the night security warned me of an elephant hiding in the trees next to the shower block. I sat on the Luwangwa River both nights to watch the sunset and animal show. Definitely a good campsite, I hope to return.
So I emailed a couple of battery providers and one came back with a branch in Lusaka that has the replacement battery I want. So I loaded up with water, rotated the tyres, and greased the universal joints, ready for the 700km to Lusaka.
I got going by 8:30am. Stopped in Mufuwe for fuel. Got caught up in some enormous gathering with 100’s of people on the way to Chipita, that I had no idea what it was about. Once I got on the T4, all went pretty smoothly. A couple of toll booths, where they wanted to check my border purchased road toll plus pay 20Kw toll.
I stop just on dusk at an IOverlander wild camp east of Nyimba. I had to get the fibreglass gear out. I had to re-fibreglass the latch on one of the flaps, and the aluminum strip at the back of the camper, that has partially ripped off when I went down a steep embarkment and also broke the hose connection. This is the seventh month that Clancy has been travelling in Africa, so some wear and tear is to be expected.
The fishermen (about 10 of them) were around early to see if I could get started. So I skipped breakfast connected one of the Aldi batteries to the AGM deep cycle, and filled the air cooler with starting fluid, and the engine started. I thanked my helpers, and I drove a couple of km south and then stopped for breakfast (with the solar panels in the sun) and the engine was warm. and had breakfast.
I went through a couple more checkpoints. I was basically transiting national parks as I headed south. I stopped in a park to take a panorama, and while I was taking the panorama I noticed a herd of elephants. They gradually got closed and passed me 100m away. I also looked the other way and saw some zebras. I am sure I saw some Cape Buffalo as well.
The road continued south with a long river crossing and a very steep exit bank. I sure the villages gathered at the top of the bank thought they would have to push, but I had my hubs locked and low ratio, and I got up.
This is a more tourist area because I have problems with kids chasing me, which is very dangerous. They are either yelling out for sweets or money, but they chase me as I pass, and it happened in Mozambique where kids hung off the back. It hasn’t happened this trip, but its a dangerous habit.
I got the the bitumen, to the west of Mfuwe. Four days of dirt track. I drove into the centre of town, where there was a supermarket, and a market. I bought some fabulous bread rolls from a seller in the market. I need to get some more on the way out.
Then it was 6km to Wild camp, very popular according to iOverlander campsite. I rolled up to a group of elephants standing outside the entrance. They were fully booked, but they found me an overflow spot with no power. I haven’t had power for two weeks, so that wasn’t a problem. I told them I was going to stay 3 nights, but then I analyzed my route. I have to get a new battery and that is probably in Lusaka, and that’s 700km away. So I told them only two nights I have to get going Saturday. I will have to come back here and do this area again properly. I would like to do a game drive in the park, but my battery situation is too precarious.
I slept well at the Forest camp, but it was cold in the morning. I packed up and went to start the engine, and no start, battery problems again. This cranking battery is on its way out, the cold temperatures have weakened its cranking power. So I know how to fix this, and luckily it was sunny, although the sun was only just over the horizon. I got out the folding solar panel and connected it to the battery. Within about half and hour and some starting spray I had the engine going.
It was another 400m climb until I got to the top of the escarpment, with Clancy crawling slowly up the steep hills. I passed another truck accident, a dump truck on its side. Then it was a windy road down into Mbeya, with good views over the city. I tried to get fuel with a credit card at the Puma but no go. I tried to find a KCB bank which does not charge extra fees, but no go, so I went to and ATM and withdrew 400,000 Tsh (about $A250). Then stopped for fuel. I knew I was low, it took 67l, so I was down to my last 8l.
Then off through the crazy traffic in Mbeya, and the road to the border, which was about 80km away. The road to the border was crammed with trucks. Long conveys of trucks crawling up the hills, nose to tail so they are very difficult to overtake.
I had read lots of accounts on iOverlander about this border, and how complicated it was. I had decided that I would try to do it myself, but if I got into trouble I would call on Robert a fixer mentioned several times by iOverlander users. So as soon as I got to the roundabout to turn into the border crossing I was surrounded by fixers. I told them to go away, So I entered the Tanzania building, but I was soon completely confused. Someone told me I had to go to the Zambian building, which I wasn’t even sure where it was, so I went outside again to be surrounded by fixers. As it turns out one of the fixers was the famous Robert. So I engaged his services. We went through all the fees I would have to pay, and he seemed fairly reasonable. So we trudged from place to place, getting different pieces of paper. He left me to do the immigration part. So I got stamped out of Tanzania (where they wanted to scan my vax certificate – why?). Then it was getting a visa for Zambia. They had dropped the price of Zambian visas to $25USD. I had $80USD in 4 $20 notes. You can only pay for a visa in USD. They would not accept and of my 4 $20 USD notes because they were not pristine enough and suggested I go onto the black market outside and see if I could get “better” notes. So I find a dealer who will give me (under pressure) $28USD for $40USD of slightly better notes, including 8 $1 notes. So I go back with my $25USD including 5 $1 notes to get told by immigration that they don’t take $1 notes. I must have made such a fuss, that they gave in and took my $25USD.
So back with Robert, more bits of paper, until we have almost everything (we are about 3 hours in by now). We just have to drive to the gate park and he will hand over the Tanzanian road tax paperwork. So the gate area is jammed with trucks, Robert gets me to maneuver past a truck to park, and I hit a raised edge of the road, Clancy tips and I clip the side mirror of a Mercedes Benz truck, and breaks it. All my fault, but what a pain. So is a security guard, a police woman, the truck driver, the truck drivers boss and 4 of 5 other hangers on. So much discussion in Swahili about what to do. I must say it was all very civilized, and with Roberts help they decide I should pay 1,200 Kwch (about $A110). This seems reasonable to me so I hand over the money, and everyone seems happy, if not somewhat embarrassed that I paid any money.
So by now its about 30 minutes from dark. I say goodbye to Robert and head down the dreaded T2 of Zambia. The road is a terrible mix of potholed bitumen and dirt. I stop at the ABSA ATM about 1km down the road, but with two attempts I cannot get any money out of the ATM. I am down to about $A50. I have 50km to get to Kings Highway and its about 15 minutes from sunset. I overtake a truck past some pot-holes and hit a pothole really, really hard. I hear a crunch from Clancy in the back. I stop to look, but I cannot see anything wrong so I continue.
So here I am again. Don’t drive in Africa in the dark, driving in Africa in the dark. The road is terrible for a few kilometres then it becomes road works. The Chinese are building a new road, but of course its all diversions and dirt and bulldust and everything else. So its a slow (40kmh) drive to Kings Highway, and it is a welcome sight when I get there. Its a nice camping area, and I have a nice solar powered hot shower. I then notice power cables hanging down the right hand side rear wheel, and realise my pot-hole collision has caused more damage.
The next morning I find that the fibreglass wheel well, has broken as the wheel hit it, and it ripped four power cables in the process. I decide I am going to have to stay another night to be able to fix everything. I ride into the village and get a sim card, which all goes well.
I spent all day fibreglassing and fixing cables. That’s why I carry 2 litres of epoxy with me. I am 50/50 if I can leave tomorrow. I have to reconnect cables. I have this problem of running out of money, and its at least 50km to the nearest ATM.